Cyclocross Blog 2013
Final Cross Blog for 2013
January 20, 2014
The cyclocross season finished about a month ago for me and after the hustle and busy Holiday season I am finally catching up on things I put off since the racing season started in early September. This is also the natural time of year to “clean up” from the prior year and take care of lingering issues and problems that have been put off and thus start the New Year on a strong note.
Around the office we have some modest remodeling and updating planned including painting, hopefully new carpeting in the reception and hallways and some front desk changes. We would love to have this completed by spring but we are at the mercy of some contractors as well as time constraints as we want to keep the office running without disruption.
Behind the scenes, we already put in new computer hardware and some software. In the coming months we are putting in a major upgrade and update to our computer software programming. This usually creates a bit of internal disruption to our billing process and we anticipate this will be somewhat more challenging this time as there is a major overhaul to insurance billing due to government mandates and new forms they created. We don’t anticipate that our clients will notice much difference during this transition unless the insurance companies and/or the government fumble their end of the overhaul (which based on most recent experiences is a concern).
On the training and racing side, this is the time of year to rest and recover from the season. Over the past several weeks my training volume and frequency dropped drastically. Basically, I ride and train as much as I feel like and when I can. I am putting more time into other areas of my life and doing the above mentioned projects at the office as well as a couple of projects around the house (there is always something to paint, repair and replace at home).
Although it sounds nice to take some rest and reduce training, there are problems that go along with it: Weight gain, fatigue and increased soreness and stiffness. Does that sound strange? The weight gain is easy to understand as I am now burning less calories but my habit is still to eat as I did during the season. That is a matter of discipline to handle and control but obviously is easier said than done. Weight control is taking a higher priority for me this year as I determined that if I intend to race at my best next season I must begin the season at the weight I reached at the end of 2013. That is 8 pounds less than I was in September of 2013. My goal is to keep my weight down throughout the year this year and NOT have to lose weight over the summer.
Fatigue and increased soreness and stiffness with reduced training may not make sense at first glance but when you look at what exercise and training does chemically in the body it is understandable. With training your body produces higher levels of certain hormones. These hormones help re-build the body, repair damaged cells, increase red blood cells and improve restorative (deep) sleep cycles. Exercise also increases the chemicals in your brain and nerve system that elevate mood and increase energy and concentration. When you stop exercising these levels begin to drop and all those good things going on in your body and brain decline.
At first it feels good to rest and recover fully without any strain on your body, but very quickly the negative impact of this decline is felt. Now you feel MORE achy, MORE stiff, MORE tired and LESS motivation to do anything. Kind of a nasty cycle! This is why it is important to exercise consistently; so those levels don’t drop off and you keep motivation up. But in those times when you do (or must) back off exercise for a period of time, it takes discipline to want to start again especially because you lose that “energy” and motivation to WANT to exercise. The good news is, a return to training quickly improves all those levels and you feel better again.
With that knowledge, my training is underway. The intensity is lower by design and I allow myself to skip a day if I have other things to do. I look forward to the more unstructured training this time of year but I will train because I don’t enjoy feeling achy, stiff and tired. I will also work on my weight with the goal of maintaining strength and muscle mass but dropping some pounds. I teach all these things to my clients and try to “practice what I preach”.
I hope you found some of these posts interesting. My intention is to give you some details of my racing life and how things are going during the season. I also want to give you a behind the scenes look at our local Masters Cyclocross scene. Along the way I try to include some training and exercise information which may help you in your own quest to maintain good health.
Addendum: Congratulations to two local Masters Racers:
- Marty Mrugal won the Pennsylvania Cycling Association’s award for Best Male Master’s Road Racer in 2013. Marty is a terrific athlete, a great person and one of my favorite guys to race against.
- Kevin Saint Clair won the Pennsylvania Cycling Association’s award for Best Male Master’s Cyclocross Racer in 2013. This was a well-deserved award for Kevin. He won most of the races he entered in his class and often would race again immediately in another class and place high in that one too. Kevin was also always there to help if needed. As I understand it, he is an excellent running coach at the high school level.
Congratulations guys! I can’t wait to race you both again next year.
Cross Blog 2013 #14
November 24, 2013
Pennsylvania State Championship Race
West Chester, PA
We returned to Bayard Rustin High School in West Chester for the State Championship race on a cold and very windy day. Bob Reuther and his team put together a very different race course from their prior event at this venue. The combination of a good race course and the challenging weather meant that the winner of the day would be a deserving state champion.
The race officials did a nice job of getting everyone quickly lined up for the start to prevent our having to sit too long in the cold. I had a front row call up and sat alongside such tough racers as defending state champ Craig Cozza, my teammate Jeff Appeltans, Bob Reuther, Marty Mrugal, Kelly Cline, Bob Eichlin and Ray Zeimet. At the gun Kelly and I jumped out quickly but I got to the first turns in the lead. I felt good but knew I had to be smart because it also put me in the wind meaning I would work harder than anyone following.
As we progressed through the first lap I maintained the leader’s position. I felt strong and kept accelerating out of turns and up hills to try to break things up in the race and to try to prevent anyone from following too close and get shelter from the wind. I held the lead through the opening lap when Cozza and Reuther came around and I got on their wheel to try to get a break from the wind. This is when things went south for me.
We were shortly past the pits and onto a short road section when I noticed my rear tire was softening. I hoped it would hold long enough for me to make back to the pits to get my spare bike but this was not to be. The tire went completely flat quickly and I watched the race leaders ride away as I went from 1st to 9th and far out of contention. At the pits I changed bikes and tried to catch onto some of the guys ahead but it was not to be. With the strong winds and the fast course you needed to ride in a group; if you were alone like me you worked too hard.
I gave it a strong effort but just could not close on any of the guys ahead. I enjoyed the course and felt very good in my cornering, bike handling and other skills. My fitness was good as I was able to ride strong and accelerate out of corners. I rolled across the finish line in 9th place; not the result I was expecting or hoping for.
The winner today was Craig Cozza with Bob Reuther in second and Bob Eichlin in 3rd. They all rode a terrific race and battled back and forth to the end. In fact, all the top guys in our Master’s race battled each other from beginning to end. This competitiveness between all of us is what makes this fun and why we all come out each weekend to do it again. It is also why our field is generally one of the largest and most competitive in every event.
Cross Blog 2013 #13
Kutztown Cross Weekend
November 16th and 17th
November 16th and 17th brought the racing to Renninger’s Market in Kutztown, PA. This venue brings mixed reviews by me. The course is featureless and flat as it is held of the grounds of Renninger’s outdoor market. The promoter does the best with what they have and does not try to overthink the course design by putting in silly obstacles. The problem is there are not any points on the course where you can make a move (no hills, no sand or mud) and thus the racing becomes one of attrition. It is hard to get away from a group so you lose people from the group if they make a mistake, have a mechanical problem or become tired and not because you are stronger than them or better over certain features. And, if you are the one making a mistake, there is little chance that you will ever get back to the group.
What I love about the venue: Renninger’s Market! After the racing I can walk over to the market and get a delicious lunch, buy locally made cheese and baked goods, locally grown produce and meats and pretty much anything else I could want (furniture, antiques, clothing, decorations and even grave stones). I left with so much stuff my arms were aching carrying the bags.
Saturday November 16th
Day 1 of racing was a Pennsylvania series race and brought out many top guys in my Master’s race. We had over 45 people registered, and a very strong top 15 contingent. I remembered how last year’s race played out so my plan was to race aggressively today and stay near the front so I wouldn’t get left behind the leaders. In this race the leading group establishes immediately and the winner will only come from that group.
I got off the line fast and held first in the prologue until Bob Reuther pushed past in the turn onto the main course. I followed second wheel for much of the lap but became impatient to assert myself so I jumped past Reuther and took over the lead for the remainder of the lap and into lap two. Reuther clearly wanted to lead the group and came around again with Bob Campos in tow. I followed in third position for a while but had overextended a bit so I eased up and Marty Mrugal came past. I small gap formed to the leaders by the time Kelly Cline and Rick Anderson came around me. I hoped they would tow me back to the front, but Kelly eased up and Anderson flew past and quickly joined up with the leaders leaving Kelly and I behind.
We pressed forward with Bob Eichlin but could not link up to the leading four. With a couple laps left I made an error while dismounting my bike to cross the barriers; I went too wide and hooked my bars in the course tape. Somehow the tape wrapped the bars and didn’t want to let go. I jerked hard and finally ripped the tape from the markers but now had a large amount of tape in several pieces hanging from my bike and my helmet as I remounted my bike. I was told I looked like a parade float with streamers! The tape was starting to twist into my chain and gears so I had to get off the bike and pull the pieces free. By the time I was moving again Eichlin and Cline were away and I was left behind. I tried to close the distance, but on this course it was not possible. I finished the day in a disappointing 7th place.
Sunday November 17th
Day 2 was a Mid-Atlantic Series race and had an even stronger and deeper field. The course was largely unchanged with the only major difference being riding in the opposite direction. The strategy today was similar to yesterday: I HAD to stay in the lead group from the beginning. I was also determined to have more patience today and allow Bob Reuther and Eric Schlauch to take the front if they wanted it.
I was off the line strong and quickly into the leading three. Through some early turns Kelly Cline then Carl Reglar moved past with a couple others pushing up from behind. This threatened to move me too far back in the group and thus risk losing the leaders; I had to act immediately. Campos had the same thought and he and I jumped at the same time bolting past Reglar and towards a tight corner. I got there first and slotted smoothly into 4th behind Schlauch, Reuther and Cline. I stayed there for the first couple laps riding comfortably and feeling good. Our lead group was established with a big gap to the chasers.
Perhaps I became complacent in the lead group knowing I had a shot at a good result; I was with the best riders in the series and feeling good. I drifted back a few spots onto the back of the group and into 7th position when I was struck with the thought, “How am I going to get around these guys on this tight of a course?” I bided my time looking for an opportunity as our leading 7 stayed tight through the next few laps.
Things unraveled for me when I noted I was more sluggish in the accelerations out of the turns. I wasn’t feeling bad or tired, but I just wasn’t matching the others any more. I pushed myself harder and was managing to keep the leaders in range into the final lap when I noticed my rear tire was deflating. With half a lap to go I rolled into the pit for my spare bike, but the leaders were long gone. I finished this day in 7th AGAIN. I am not sure my result would have been any different without the flat tire; the others in the lead group were excellent racers. Still, I would have liked the chance to sprint for a podium placing.
Overall this was a solid weekend for me. I am beating several guys who earlier in the season were far superior to me. I am riding with better technique, able to hop small logs and cornering faster. My fitness and health were good and I was finally riding with the leaders. My impatience and a mistake hurt me on Saturday. On Sunday, I may have been a little too patient and then an unfortunate flat dropped me out of the running. Each day I learned a lesson I will use in the last couple of races this season.
Cross blog 2013 #12
November 9 and 10th, 2013
First State Velo Cross and Highland Park Cross
Mid Atlantic Series events
After nearly a month, the Mid Atlantic Series (www.midatlanticcross.com) resumed for this weekend’s events. Colder weather entered the picture with temperatures in the low 40s at race time, but both courses were dry as there has been very little rain. The fields of racers were all good size, especially considering the late season, with the Master’s fields remaining some of the largest and definitely the most competitive.
My racing and fitness has progressed since September when I finished 21st on the first event of the season (Nittany Cross). Since then, in the MAC series, I finished in the mid-teens with my highest placing being 12th at Whirlybird Cross. A steady progression in results is what I planned and it is what I achieved thus far. Those MAC results have me ranked 11th overall in the 2013 series; a bit of a letdown over 2012 where I finished in 5th overall for the series. The best I can hope for is a top 10 overall placing by the end of this season. But, when I look at my goals set before the season, I am achieving them. Because of my personal and professional schedule, my race fitness was significantly lacking in August and September and thus the plan was to build into the season and hopefully get progressively better results.
My goals for this weekend of racing were to position more aggressively and maintain contact with the leaders in the opening lap. Generally this season I have been too passive in the opening; happy to just sit on the back of the lead group. This tactic often left me behind the split (or splits) in the group and then having to get around riders and chase across gaps. I let the other racers dictate the strategy and I was just responding.
First State Velo Cross
Saturday we raced in Elkton, MD at Fairhill Park. When I arrived it was a shocking 27 degrees with frost on the grass and ice skimmed over the puddles! It was sunny and clear though so it felt warmer and the temperature rose nicely before race time. The course was very similar to prior years, but with some tweaks that improved it and made spectator viewing better.
With my ranking I had a second row start which was fine due to the quality of the guys in the front row. We got off to a good start, and I stayed solidly in the front group for the first lap. The pace was high as we flew around the course and turns until eventually it split up with Bob Reuther, Eric Schlauch, Rob Campos, Carl Reglar and Marty Mrugal all in the front, then a few seconds to Mark Featherman and Kelly Cline followed shortly after by myself, Ray Ziemet, Mark Pohndorf, Chris Chapman and some others. I tried to catch back on by attacking any hill and climb and was able to make up time in those areas but just didn’t have the horsepower to get there.
Soon Pohndorf and then Chapman came past me and I tried to hold their wheel as I thought the three of us could maybe catch Featherman and Cline who were just a short distance ahead. It was not to be though as those guys all started to gap me. We came into the final lap with me riding alone chasing. I noticed I was going stronger on the hills then Chapman and Pohndorf so I kept up my pressure hoping for a little luck. Chapman overcooked an off-camber turn and slid out which allowed me to claw closer to him. Then Pohndorf broke his derailleur over the log jumps and had to run with his bike thus dropping him behind. I was still chasing Chapman as we hit the final hill past the pits. I felt strong here and put in an attack, flying past into the final part of the course. I kept the pace up and sprinted to the finish ending up 7th; my highest placing in the 2013 MAC series!
Overall a good race for me but I still have work to do to stay with the overall leaders. I am happy with how I fought to the end and thrilled to see my power and strength increasing. My bike handling and technical skills are solid too. I finished the day hungry to race in Highland Park.
Highland Park Cross
Sunday took us to Jamesburg, NJ for the Highland Park Cross race. The day began warmer than yesterday but windy, with a sunny, clear sky. When I pulled into the parking area I was surprised to see the course was significantly altered from prior years. After riding a couple of reconnaissance laps I determined that they made the course harder with more hills to climb. This was good news for me as my strength this season has been the hills.
Today I had a front row start giving me a clear path off the line. At the whistle I jumped off the line first with Eric Schlauch moving up beside me. I allowed Schlauch then Kelly Cline to come around me so I could duck in behind out of the wind. We went into the first turns in that order with other guys pushing up from behind. As the early minutes progressed I remained in the top 5 to 8 positions determined to not let the leaders get away. I was 5th wheel when I felt the leaders hesitate as we approached the first real hill about halfway through the lap. I attacked around the group and powered up the climb into the lead. I kept the pace high, punching up each hill and remained the leader for about a lap. It felt terrific to dictate the tactics in the race and I hoped I was creating some gaps behind.
About 10 minutes into the race Carl Reglar moved past followed by Rob Campos, Schlauch and Marty Mrugal. I tacked onto that group but began to pay the price for my earlier efforts and they moved away. At this point Ray Ziemet and Rick Anderson came around and I tried to hold their wheels to recover; sensing my fatigue they left me behind. I pushed onward alone, trying to claw back; the hills were now a little harder. Mark Pohndorf was just behind with a small group of others just a few meters further back. Pohndorf came up and I hoped to work with him to catch some of the leaders as we traded pulls. We made some headway but time was running out.
As we went into the final lap, I felt stronger having recovered some from my early efforts. Although I was hurting and pushing my limits, I observed that I was still stronger on the hills than the others around me. I planned to use that information to my advantage in this last lap as I had the dual goal of trying to catch some guys AND keeping the hungry group behind from catching me. I attacked each hill and felt the guys behind dropping away and saw Pohndorf struggling just ahead. Coming up to the second to last hill I saw Campos dropping back looking spent and tired. Pohndorf and Campos hit the hill together and chugged upward. This was my chance, so I accelerated hard, drove past them and kept the pressure up. I wasn’t sure where they were as I hit the finish straight so I punched it hard and sprinted across the line into my MAC season’s best 6th place! Up ahead Schlauch won, Reglar 2nd, Ziemet a terrific 3rd, Mrugal 4th and Anderson 5th.
I am extremely happy with this race. My strength was good, I made no technique errors and more importantly I made a real impact at the front of the race. After the race I spoke to several others who complimented me on the race and my fitness. One of the top MAC guys told me my early attack put him over his limit when he tried to stay with it. He said not only did I attack the hills but kept the pace so high he couldn’t stay with the lead group. A couple others also told me that the early pace over the hills was too much for them and that it split up the race. Another top racer said that as we climbed the hills he looked at my legs and my size and thought “that guy is much bigger than me, why can’t I stay with him on these hills?” (he weighs nearly 25 lbs less than me). He was eventually able to leave me behind, BUT it is nice to know that he had to work for it and that my efforts made an impact on the race.
As we approach the final few races in the season my fitness is still climbing. My results in the races are getting better (MAC Finishes 21st, 14, 14, 16, 12, 7, 6th). I am beginning to make an impact at the front end of the race and I continue to have fun. Additionally, usually at this part of the season I have some specific aches, mild nagging injuries and fatigue but this year I feel great. I am looking forward to seeing what I can do in the next few weeks.
Cross Blog 2013 #11
November 2nd and 3rd 2013
PA Cyclo-Cross weekend
Swashbuckler and Stoudt’s Cross
This weekend “brewed up” two good races both sponsored and hosted by Lancaster County breweries. The races were well run, the competition strong; add to that beautiful autumn weather, beer and food, what more could you ask for? If you skipped either of these races, don’t make the same error next year.
At Swashbuckler the course wound through the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds for a truly unique setting. After the race the brewery gave out beer and an unbelievably delicious smoked turkey leg. As for Stoudt’s, this year’s course was excellently designed; it made you work AND suffer! And not to be outdone by the prior day, Stoudt’s hosted an Oktoberfest feast with German food and a huge selection of beers on tap. Two days of hard racing and I think I gained weight!
Swashbuckler on Saturday was a new race and course so I didn’t know what to expect. What I did know was that the top guys in my category were coming. As I previewed the course, I was not impressed. It didn’t seem to flow well and there were some obstructions on the course (fence posts, tree stumps, trees) that seemed unnecessary and even dangerous. However, as often happens, the course raced much better than expected. Sometimes you have to race a course to really get a feel for its character. Swashbuckler had good character.
My race started poorly as I slipped off my pedal and could not get up to speed quickly. I was able to close the gap to the lead group but as we hit the sand pit I was around 10th and gaps were opening up ahead. I didn’t get a clean ride through the sand and lost some more positions so I had some chasing to do. Throughout the race I pushed myself forward and steadily caught guys but really didn’t know where I was. At one point I clawed my way up to Mike Hebe and accelerated to pass him but didn’t get around him before we came into a slick turn side by side; I drifted to my left towards Mike pushing him toward the tape causing him to slide out hard on his side. I felt terrible about that (sorry Mike) and was glad to see he was quickly back on his bike and catching back on.
During the remainder of the race, Mike and I and two other racers were battling and trying to master the slippery corners, the long sand pit and the gravel. Coming into the final few turns I had a gap on Mike and the other two and I saw Mike Stevens just ahead so I punched it hard to attempt to catch him. On the finishing straight he was only a second or two ahead and I opened my sprint thinking I may surprise him, when suddenly he crashed hard just a few meters from the finish. I came across ahead of him for 4th place and Mike Hebe also came by him for 5th. It turns out Mike Stevens suffered a flat tire late in the race, but I’m not sure why he crashed. It was truly an unfortunate ending for his race as we took his podium away.
At Sunday’s Stoudt’s Cross in Adamstown, PA, we had an even stronger field than Saturday. We raced at this venue last year but this year they changed the course into a top notch cross course. They added more hills and obstacles and created some excellent bike handling sections where the twists and turns flowed when you rode it correctly. The main feature was Goat Hill, a tough hill that required peak power to climb.
The race started off fast with a large lead group established by the foot of Goat Hill. I attacked the hill and jumped past several riders to move up further into the lead pack where I remained until the second lap where gaps started to open and I found myself too far back from the leading 5. I pushed hard to close gaps and found that I was very strong on every uphill. About halfway into the race I was with Mike Hebe and Rick Anderson with Ray Ziemet a few seconds ahead as we approached Goat Hill. I again attacked the hill and bolted ahead of Ray. By the top I had a small gap on the three of them with the lead group of four (Marty Mrugal, Bob Reuther, Kevin Eichlin and Kelly Cline) a short distance away. I continued to push ahead; attacking every hill, hoping I could somehow catch onto the leaders. Eventually Kelly fell off the leaders pace and I went in pursuit. It was not to be though as Kelly kept the pace high and made no mistakes. For Eichlin though, bad luck struck and he flatted his front tire. He exchanged bikes in the pit but shortly after flatted the rear tire on that bike and was left to limp to the finish falling far off the winner’s (Bob Reuther) pace. This meant I finished in 4th again today.
Overall I am very pleased with my fitness and racing this weekend. I felt strong, had good technique and was able to power forward during the races. I have an issue to correct though; I need to position better in the opening parts of the race. Too often I find myself too far back in the group when a gap opens up and I am left to try to fight across it to the leaders. Being more aggressive in the start and my early positioning in the pack may make the difference in my racing with the leaders versus what I have been doing lately which is racing to try to catch the leaders.
Cross Blog 2013 #10
October 27th 2013
Crossasaurus Awesome (Near Spring Mountain in Upper Salford Township, PA)
One of the strangest names for a cross race (I don’t know why they use a dinosaur reference) was the title for this next race in the Pennsylvania series. This is traditionally a fun race because it is local, they have a good venue for the race AND they have great prizes including Toasted Head Wines and Peanut Butter and Co nut butters for the top finishers. This year they tweaked the course from prior years and added a lot more turns and twists. Frankly, some of the additions were good but one section of multiple 180 degree turns with just a few yards of straights between was pointless as it merely slowed things to a crawl. I give the race director credit though for trying to change and improve the course each year.
I am currently ranked 5th in the PA CycloCross series which gives me a front row call up; an important position in this race as a couple of minutes in there is a tricky area where it is best not to be in a crowd. At the whistle I got the hole shot and lead into the first turns. At the second turn I came in a little too fast and had to hit the brakes a little hard and power slid the rear wheel around the turn. This did little to slow me and I remained in the lead group over the tricky lump of a hill, around the 180 and back over the lump.
I was with the lead group around the first lap and able to get around different riders who slid out in the turns (the conditions were dry and the turns were loose). Bob Reuther, Marty Mrugal and Kelly Cline were the leaders with Mark Featherman following, Dave Lowe going strong then me and a group of others. Halfway into the second lap Mark slid out in a turn slowing the rest of us which allowed the leading trio to get away. I chased furiously with help from Dave but our group could not close it down.
As the fast laps progressed my group began to whittle down and Ray Ziemet came around to push the pace. He and I created some space to the rest of the group chasing as we powered on. I saw Kelly drop away from the 2 leaders and thought Ray and I could have a chance to pull him in if we worked together. Riding behind Ray I felt rested and like I could go faster, plus Ray was having difficulty in the turns and going slowly through them so I came around him and told him I felt we should work together to go after Kelly. I pushed the pace a little but Ray powered past again as he seems to want to always be in the lead. I was able to come around again a couple times and push the pace, but each time Ray would work into the lead and then slow things down in the turns.
With a lap and ½ left I was behind Ray when I became impatient in the series of tight turns and got too close to his wheel and had to flick my front wheel to the side to avoid contact. I slid out onto my side with my right hand hitting my shifter causing my chain to slip out of gear. This slowed me down and Ray got away. I chased hard but could not bring him back. I finished in 5th place, good enough for the podium and some Toasted Head Wine, Peanut Butter and Company peanut butter (delicious stuff) and Cadence Cycling prizes.
It is terrific to be fighting near the front of the race again. Today I felt strong and in control (other than my one costly mistake). I did not feel like I was pushed to my maximum today as the racing was more tactical. My fitness is definitely rising and I am encouraged for the remainder of the season’s racing.
Beacon Cross and Highland Park Cross
In my previous update I mentioned how perfect the Fall weather was;
this past weekend of racing was the polar opposite! Polar described the
weather well; I can’t recall any other time it has SNOWED in October in
the Philly area. Some people say that rain, snow and mud is “real
cyclocross” weather. If that is true, we had THE BEST cyclocross
weather this weekend!
Highland Park Cross 10/30
After yesterday’s race in the rain I was looking forward to Highland
Park’s snow. At least it was sunny out (but not yet warm as the
temperature at race time was still in the 30’s). I previewed the course
to find a good tire pressure and to figure out what the snowy
conditions would be like. The course was going to be challenging but
did not look to be muddy (although I knew when the sun warmed things up
it would turn to mud). I thought it would stay cold enough to remain
firm for my race. I was wrong.
My start today was not so great and I quickly fell back to around 10th
position. I was moving along okay until another racer slid out in a
corner in front of me and caused me to fall too. I splatted flat on my
stomach in a big muddy puddle and dropped my chain. After getting back
on and moving forward I took another turn poorly and fell again.
this point, still in the first lap, I was soaked, my hands were frozen
and I was wondering if I would be able to finish. I pushed onward and
the efforts thawed my hands out but I was still sliding in turns and
slipping a lot. When I passed the pit zone I called to Paul to lower
the pressure in the tires of my spare bike and on the next lap I
switched to that machine. This made all the difference. Suddenly my
tires were hooking up through the turns and I had traction to peddle
through the slippery mess.
I rode faster and was able to pass several
riders and move up. In the last half lap I was caught by Ray Zeimet of
Guys Racing Club who was riding so smoothly and perfectly that he left
me behind with ease. Another racer was hot on my wheel and we came off
the final slippery turn together, but I bobbled and he went away to
take the spot from me. I finished 12th which was not where I wanted to
be but honestly it was all I had in me for the day.
The cleanup from this weekend of racing took several hours and some of
my clothes and equipment will probably never be rid of all the sand and
mud. All the same it was fun and I’m glad I raced.
My decent results this weekend moved me up to 6th place in the
MidAtlantic Cyclocross Series in the 45+ Category. There are some
terrific people in front of me AND some great ones behind me too.
goal is to improve my finishes and get into the top 5 in the overall.
This will be a tough challenge with guys like David Lowe (Human
Zoom/Pabst Blue Ribbon), Jeff Appeltans (Mambo Kings/Go Cycling-D&Q)
and Ron Huebner (Evolution Cycling Club/Long & Foster) all fighting for
the same spots. We have 5 races left so there will plenty of battles
between us and many others.
(Go to www.midatlanticcross.com to follow
all the results and see where we race next).
Beacon Cross 10/29/11
This race has a long history and the course has not changed very much
over the years. It is generally very fast but has elements that cause
short legged guys like me big trouble. There is the long run across the
beach that finishes with a very high concrete step up at the end to
drain the legs. Later in the course is the run up the amphitheater
which is a series of pairs of steps each about 24 inches high which
leave me at a stumbling pace by the top. And we get to do this for
At the race start we had gusting winds of 30+ mph, temperatures in the
mid 30’s and heavy rain. I had a terrific start today and followed Jeff
Appeltans and Al Blanchard into the trails and down onto the beach. I
actually felt very good running across the beach and I remained in the
top 5 for the first couple of laps.
But about half way through the race
my bike’s shifters clogged with sand and mud and I could not change
gears. I made the switch to my spare bike but in the transition I lost
time on the group I was with and had trouble making it up. The efforts
and the cold weather started to lock my legs up and the run up the
amphitheater became SLOW. I was going the best I could but two more
riders were able to catch me and leave me behind to finish in 8th
At the finish my heart was racing and I was plenty warm so I rode
around for just a few minutes to recover. This was a mistake because by
the time I made it back to my van I was hypothermic and shaking
crazily. Paul had the van on with the heat rolling and with his help I
was able to get my soaking wet racing kit off and into dry clothes. It
is amazing how luxurious an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt can feel
when you are that cold and wet!
Cross Blog 2013 #9
October 20th 2013
West Chester Cross
This weekend we returned to Bayard Rustin High School in the West Chester area for round 3 of the Pennsylvania Cyclo Cross Series. This is a well-designed course (courtesy of Bob Reuther) with a good flow, some hills and some power sections. We raced nearly the same course last year where I had a strong showing coming in 3rd so I was looking forward to this year’s event. After yesterday’s strong race, I was even more optimistic for today as my form is clearly getting better.
The start of the race went poorly for me. A last minute change to the opening part of the race for us came as a surprise to me and as a result I was not prepared with a plan. At the beginning I got “pinched” toward a curb on the right side so I eased up to make it around safely, BUT this put me back in the pack. Due to the change, after another 5 seconds we launched off the pavement into a “double track” section of the fields which then narrowed further through an early turn. Because of this early narrowing the race strung out immediately before it had time to sort out and gaps opened up. I was too far back and could only watch the leading group get away.
At this point I decided to race as hard as I could and move as far forward as possible. I soon started to catch guys ahead of me but saw the lead group a far distance away. Jeff Appeltans (even with a third row start he was far ahead of me) was trying desperately to bridge across a gap to the leaders. In my group I continued to move ahead. Eventually Blair Saunders came around me and I jumped onto his wheel because I knew he always finds a way to go forward. We eventually caught up to Mark Featherman and Mike Hebe but shortly after Blair crashed at the uphill barriers. Now I was in a tough trio with Featherman and Hebe, but I was feeling good and I thought Featherman was struggling so I went to the lead only to relinquish it to Mark. As we turned into the wind Mark let me come around again so I pushed hard hoping to move forward AND to drop Mark and Mike. Mark played it smartly though and let me do some hard work. When he saw me tiring he jumped around me and rode away. I tried to respond but the legs said “NO”.
Now it was down to Mike Hebe and I. As we pushed on we saw other racers behind organizing an effort to catch us. Mike and I quickly spoke and decided to work together and take some digs to bridge across to Mark. We made some strong efforts but just could not close him. Fortunately our efforts kept the chasers behind at bay. In the end, I was able to attack away from Mike and stay away to the finish. I had no clue as to where I finished overall and was surprised to hear I ended up 7th only 15 seconds behind Mark. Ultimately I wished for a better placing but after missing the early selection I am happy with the effort I put out and the result.
Cross Blog 2013 #8
Star Rock Cross Race
October 19, 2013
After spraining my shoulder in last Sunday’s race, I wasn’t sure when I would be able to race again. During the week I treated my shoulder and supported the joint with a combination of Kinesio Tape and traditional athletic taping methods. This worked well as I was able to ride my bike on the road by Tuesday afternoon when I did a hard tempo ride. I followed that up with intervals on Wednesday. Each day I felt better, but was careful not to pull on the bars or do any difficult turns or moves as the shoulder needed to heal. Even with these days of good training I was still questionable about racing this weekend. By Friday evening, my shoulder felt okay even after a full week in the office and I made the last minute decision to drive out to the Lancaster area for Star Rock Cross, pre-ride the course and decide if I could race.
After getting up early Saturday, October 19th to quickly load up the van and drive to Lancaster, I arrived at the venue and had a chance to do two laps on the course. It was a well-designed course and I felt my shoulder could handle the work without much risk, so I signed up and prepared to race.
I got off to a solid start and was 6th wheel going through the opening turns when suddenly the rider in second slid out and caused the riders behind to slow or stop, but I was able to squeeze through on the left and found myself in second chasing the leader. I felt very strong powering up the hills, but was cautious on the fast down hills (not risking the shoulder), as a result I went back to around 7th place. As I became more confident in my shoulder, I began to move up. I made up lots of ground on the up hills and was able to maintain on the down hills moving myself up to Marty Mrugal and Kelly Cline. For a short time I was in second place until Marty powered away. Kelly and I fought together to claw our way back to Marty only to have him attack away. We did this several times, and each time Marty pulled away. Eventually Kelly and I knew I was a battle between the two of us for 3rd. Each of us tried to get away from the other, but it was not to be. We came down to the closing minute of the race together when Kelly gave it a last effort and I could not respond; Kelly took 3rd with me in 4th.
I was excited about this race result even though I took 4th. The guys ahead of me are excellent riders so there was no shame in losing to them. More importantly, my shoulder held up well, I rode powerfully and felt good, AND it was a SATURDAY (if you read my prior blogs, you remember that Saturdays have been difficult). I feel like I am rounding into shape.
I am nearly halfway into the racing season and almost every post I’ve written talks about how I am not getting the results I hoped for. Spoiler alert: So does this one.
It is not that I am racing poorly or not enjoying the competition. There are aspects to my racing that I have been pleased with in every event and in some cases that I have done better than ever. The problem I observed is on Saturday’s my legs feel “heavy” and not as powerful as I expect. Sunday’s my legs feel very different; more powerful and responsive (whether I race Saturday or not) as evidenced by my win in Cleveland on a Sunday and by my generally better results (see Nittany day 2).
The probable cause of this issue is my life and professional schedule. Thursdays begin very early in the morning with a heavy schedule of patient care straight through to late afternoon. By the time I get home in the evenings I am tired but generally have a few chores to handle before settling down. Fridays in the office are generally busy too (which is terrific) and if I am racing Saturday, my Friday nights are busy getting my gear ready making this day longish too. It makes sense that my legs would be reluctant to work on Saturdays.
The solution? I could change my work hours, reduce the work I do and get more rest in the days leading up to the weekend. In fantasy land that is a good idea. In the real world, racing is a hobby and my career and family are important so it makes no sense to sacrifice the important for the hobby. Plus, I really like my Chiropractic practice and enjoy Thursdays and Fridays the most because of how full those days are and how productive they feel. What to do about Saturdays then? I will try some different training to see if going easier (or not training at all) late in the week will help. I will try warming up differently on Saturdays. And I will ease up on myself; go as hard as I can on Saturday, enjoy the racing and realize how lucky I am to be able to live this active a life.
Cross Blog 2013 #7
Cooper River Cross
October 13, 2013
A Sunday race, beautiful weather, close to home, what else could I want? I lined up in the 40+ masters field in the second row for this super-fast course where the start means everything. Unfortunately the guy I lined up behind started slowly, dropping me backward from the gun. In the early going I moved ahead as much as possible, but just ½ a lap into the race the lead group of 6 had a 100 meter gap as I finally came around the rest of the field and tried to power forward. I gave it everything I had and a couple other guys came to the front to try and help, but we just could not close the distance.
A couple laps into the race I was pushing myself to the limit to catch the leaders and as my group came around a tight corner I took it too aggressively and clipped a tree with my right shoulder. In case you are wondering, trees don’t like to be hit and will hurt anyone who hits them. Well this tree put a hurtin’ on me: I sprained and separated my shoulder. I knew it immediately as I could feel it shifting and “clunking” around in the joint.
I did finish the race riding mostly one handed, but I fell far off the pace and far back into the field. I probably should have dropped out after the injury, but I simply don’t like to quit so I pressed on to the finish.
Now my racing season was in jeopardy but more importantly so was my ability to work. I assessed the injury, iced the joint frequently, Kinesio taped it for support and edema reduction and hoped for the best. Luckily by using my treatment skills and knowledge in taping and bracing I was able to use my arm by the next day. The shoulder continues to improve as the days pass, but racing is questionable for the upcoming weekend or two.
Cross Blog #6
Whirlybird Cross in Bensalem, Pennsylvania
Saturday October 12
This fifth race in the Mid Atlantic series has been a staple for years and I race I have enjoyed each year. This year’s course at Bensalem High School was very well designed with good flow, power sections and bike handling sections utilizing everything the venue offered. It was also excellent for spectators as they could see a majority of the course from one area.
I had a subpar start which had me off the leaders after the first 30 seconds. (The legs again). In the first lap I started to power forward with the intent to give it 100% all the way. I ended up leading a group of up to 8 riders at times. I generally stayed on the front of this group with different guys pulling through sometimes. I didn’t care if other guys were getting a “free ride” sitting behind, my intent was always to go harder and try to move forward. Many times throughout the race I was able to create a little gap to the group but each time it came back together.
At one point Mark Featherman came up to the front (after working his way back from a flat tire that dropped him far back in the field) and he and I created a little space until he washed his rear wheel out in a tight corner and I braked too hard behind and washed out my front wheel almost falling. At that point he had a few seconds on me which I tried desperately to close but to no avail. We all raced hard through the closing lap with Mark staying just ahead and me holding off the group of chasers I lead.
This was another “good” race. Good but not great. I want great! I am satisfied with the overall performance but look forward to a break out race where everything comes together.
Cross Blog #5
Town Hall Cross
Saturday September 28th
The Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series began with Town Hall Cross in Bethlehem on a beautiful Fall day. My race was loaded with some of the best talent from the region. Looking at the registrations for the races this year the masters categories have some of the largest and most competitive fields each week. Some may think you get to take it easier as you get older but not in the local racing scene!
My race started well as I jumped out quickly off the line. Shortly after Bob Reuther took over the lead as we ascended the long switch back hill. Towards the top my legs were feeling “heavy” and I lost some places. Soon after the leaders got away from me and I had nothing to respond with. I regrouped and continued to ride as hard as I could and soon got into a good battle with Dave Lowe and a couple other guys. Dave is a great racer and has terrific handling skills. I always enjoy racing with him as he competes hard and forces me to stay on my toes because he will take advantage of any mistake I make. Plus, after the race he is the first to come to you with an encouraging word and a smile. (Thanks Dave!) I finished the day 8th, not bad considering the talent here.
I planned a break from racing after Town Hall Cross so I could do some training and get some work done around the house. This weekend was definitely NOT a rest weekend. Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday night I cleaned gutters, mowed my lawn, did other yard work and clean up, straightened up my garage, removed and cleaned air conditioners from our windows, vacuumed and I can’t even remember what else. Plus on Sunday morning I was invited on a 50+ mile dirt road and trail ride with Bob Reuther and Joe Piscetello out in Chester County. What a fun ride with a good group of guys!
I spent the rest of the week putting in a good block of training and by the next Sunday I was totally spent. I had put in over 200 miles of riding, done two days of intervals, strength training and some trail riding. Plus I continued on my home improvement efforts and clean up. This was a very productive week. My hope is all the work pays off in the coming weekends of racing.
Cross Blog #4
Charm City Cross
September 21st and 22nd
The weekend of September 21st and 22nd I was down in Baltimore, Maryland for Charm City Cross. The race is held in Druid Hill Park in what I believe is the longest running venue for a cyclocross race in the MAC series. It is a great place for a race because of its varied terrain and interesting features. I always enjoy this race even though every year I race it some unusual mechanical issue seems to happen to my bike.
Saturday’s race brought a warm, dry day and a different course design from prior years. They kept the interesting features of a sand pit, steps, barriers and a low “wall” type barrier we had to hop over twice as the course wraps around a tree. Unfortunately they removed some of the hills we used in the past. The race course was fast!
The start went well and the top guys went straight to the front immediately stringing the field out. I felt good but not great and was not able to hold onto the leaders. I was back around 20th during the first lap. My legs starting coming around and I was able to work my way forward ending up 14th. A solid race but still not what I am hoping for.
On Sunday the course was essentially the same. The biggest difference was an overnight rain storm that actually made the race faster because it firmed up the loose soil in the turns. I had a good start and was with the lead pack but it started to break up and I had good legs today and worked my way past some guys who have been stronger than me this year. I was riding with two guys who have been on the podium several times this year and we were moving forward.
I was riding comfortably when my “unusual mechanical” struck. I was riding up to the barriers and dismounting the bike when my left cleat remained stuck in the pedal! Through an awkward kick, skip then flip of the bike out to my right I dislodged my foot but lost three places in the process. I quickly got back on the bike but when I tried to use my rear brake in the next corner I realized I had kicked the brake cable off during my acrobatic dismount. I rode like this for part of a lap but without the rear brake I had poor bike control and crashed on a downhill turn. At this point I tried to hook the brake cable back in and saw that a part was missing. I had to keep riding without the brake for a little longer until I could get to the pit and switch to my spare bike. By the time this happened I was back in the 20’s somewhere. I made the best of it and just pedaled as hard as I could, catching and passing a handful of guys to finish 16th.
The biggest disappointment was I felt strong and had good legs today. The two guys I was with when I had my mechanical ended up finishing in the top 4! This could have been a breakout race for me. It is terrible to squander opportunities like this, but that is racing (so they say).
By the way; the reason for my getting stuck in my pedal was the cleat on my left shoe had come loose and thus would not release. How that happened I don’t know. It never happened before. Unfortunately it happened on a day when I felt great instead of a day like yesterday when it would not have impacted my results as much.
Cross Blog 2013 #3
Edge of the World Cyclocross Spectacular in Cleveland, Ohio
This weekend I took the opportunity to go visit my son in Cleveland and race an event in the city. It was a beautiful weekend, which made the 7+ hour drive pleasant. I spent a few hours with my son Saturday afternoon then we had an incredible dinner at a restaurant in Little Italy near his campus. Just those few hours made the trip worth it!
Sunday was race day. The event was in a park right on Lake Erie that had gorgeous views of Cleveland and the lake. As advertised, the course was “spectacular.” It had a little of everything you could see in a cyclocross course: Grassy power sections, twists and turns, off camber turns, gravel, sand, roots, off camber root sections, hills, power hills, and even a set of step run-ups. It was a fun course that required all your skills.
I had no idea what to expect from the competition or the race itself, as I had never competed in this area before. What I found was a well-organized event with a fun atmosphere. There were several food vendors, a beer vendor, music, race announcers and several other vendors and supporters. Fellow racers and their families were out enjoying the day and having a great time. I highly recommend this race series (check them out at http://neocx.wordpress.com).
At the start I tried to get an idea of who I was up against and found the competition included two of last year’s masters series winners (the 35+ and the 45+) as well as other guys who were clearly good racers. The start went smoothly with me riding about 10th and one guy quickly getting a gap. After some of the opening turns I was able to move up a bit in a power section, and then a little more along a gravel path. Running up the stairs I was 6th but with the lead group. After we descended a long off camber hill we hit the beach for 100 meters. I was able to ride most of it before jumping off and running a short distance. I quickly remounted at the base of the hill and attacked into the lead. I put my head down and dug hard cresting the hill and sprinting to the barriers. After a couple minutes I settled the pace down and looked back to see who was with me. There were two guys from the same team and then a good gap to the pursuers. Turned out to be a good attack!
I decided to stay on the front so I could pick my lines through the turns and ride my pace. I kept the pace high and pushed out of turns and up the climbs. We were flying around the course! After a couple more laps I looked back and realized only one guy was with me and he looked strong. He was better in the sand; able to ride the entire beach section while I had to dismount in the last few meters each time. I was better in the climbs and power hills. We were evenly matched on the flats and turns. I kept on the front, pushing hard trying to get away. I slid out in a turn and he came around me and led for a while. It was clear that he and I were going to battle to the finish so I had to make my strategy. I decided to get back on the front so I could dictate the pace. On the last lap my plan was to attack out of the sand up the hill where I was stronger and get away. I made my attack and he matched me perfectly. We came into the barriers side by side where I decided to let him take the lead through the closing turns and bring the race down to a sprint finish so I could come off his wheel.
Coming up to the final turn we were both popping through our gears to get into our preferred ratio for the sprint. He chose the big ring while I stayed small (I wanted to be able to spin up quickly). Onto the finish straight it was drag race. In his big ring he at first started to pull away, but in my small I was able to quickly accelerate and build speed pulling up beside him with just meters to go. I popped down one more gear still accelerating through the finish and was able to take the win by a wheel!
It was a terrific race for both of us (okay more terrific for me since I took the win). I gave everything I had and was elated in getting a win. This turned out to be a perfect weekend all around: I was able to visit with my son, we had an incredible dinner and I won a race!
Cross Blog 2013 #2
Nittany Cross Day 2
The second day of racing at Nittany started off promising. As Paul and I warmed up on the course we both felt terrific. The bikes were humming, our legs felt open and the weather was perfect. We both had similar goals for the day: To race as hard as we could and improve on our finish from the first day.
At the start line we had similar positions with me on the first row and Paul back about the 8th row. I went out more conservatively than day 1 and was quickly swamped by other riders with a more aggressive plan. This quickly dropped me back into the 20s. Paul on the other hand went out strong and reported he was close behind me after the first minute. After the opening couple of minutes, I pressed forward by attacking out of corners, powering through the straights and focusing on catching the next guy ahead of me. This worked well as I steadily moved forward, caught other riders and dropped them as I pushed onward. Eventually the only guy I caught that I could not drop was a Bike Line racer named Chapman or “Chappie” as his many fans cheered.
The two of us continued to push onward and with two laps to go we were gaining on a 3-rider group of Mark Featherman, Kelly Cline, and Chris Long. We kept digging and were slowly closing the gap. With one lap to go I thought we could have a chance to catch them because they were playing a little “cat and mouse” in their group each trying to save a little energy for the finish. I asked Chappie if he had it in him to make one last push to catch them. He went to the lead and gave a strong pull that I could not hold onto. I told him to just keep going without me. He eventually closed the gap to them but had nothing left to contest the finish, but it was a great effort. I gave all I had in this race and finished 14th on the day. I was very pleased with my effort and the result.
After the finish, I was cruising into my warm down when I was flagged down by our friend Laura VanGilder of Mellow Mushroom racing. When I looked I saw she was with Paul on the sidelines, he with his arm in a sling. Paul told me he was on a good day and was riding aggressively moving up and feeling great. With a couple laps left he saw a couple racers just ahead and attacked hard to catch them. As it turned out he attacked maybe a little too hard as he hit a bump awkwardly while coming out of a turn at high speed and crashed hard, breaking not just his helmet but also his right collar bone. Not the result he was searching for!
Paul will heal up and race again. He is doing well already. Unfortunately he is in terrific condition and was clearly going to mix it up with the top 10 this year had this injury not happened. A huge disappointment for sure! It is hard to know that you are in great shape, but can’t use that fitness to race because you are injured.
Cross Blog 2013 #1
September 7th and 8th, Nittany Cross
Cyclocross season launched on September 7th and 8th with Nittany Cross at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome. The weather was beautiful, the course well designed and fast, and the fields of racers huge. To add to the large numbers of racers, the quality of the fields was high. Guys are getting faster, stronger and more skilled which makes the racing exciting.
Paul made his return to racing this year after taking last year off. He put in many hours in the gym strength training as well as on the bike to come into the season with probably his best overall fitness in years. For myself, my fitness was suspect and unknown even to me! My training was “uneven” this year and I lacked intensity in my workouts. My professional and personal schedule was very full this year making training challenging. There were weeks I trained hard followed by a week I had no time on the bike at all. This continued from winter through to September. My only hope was to using racing to bring me the intensity I needed to compete well.
So we lined up for Saturday’s race with these dynamics. I was in questionable shape but had a front row call up based on last year’s results. Paul was in terrific shape but way back in the 9th row due to having no results from last year. When the race started, I surprisingly jumped out into the lead and held it for a minute or so until I relinquished it to another rider who then slid out in a turn putting me back on front. I let a couple riders come around but then in the run up after the barriers I ran back into the lead and stayed there for another minute. The lead was not the place for me as my fitness was questionable and I did not want to “blow up”. Finally my team mate Jeff came up to me and attacked away getting a good gap. I was feeling the efforts of my early work and settled back. I tried to work and push during the rest of the race but I knew I wasn’t going fast. In the latter part of the race I saw Paul closing in on me as he was clearly going well. I finished 21st and Paul was less than 30 seconds back in 25th.
This first race I had my goals of going as hard as I could while staying steady and smooth. Overall I achieved my goals and was satisfied. It is a funny thing when you are trying to push your body’s limits. In those first efforts where your heart rate is spiking and the lactic acid is building up in the muscles, your brain and body team up and ask you: “Seriously? You REALLY want to feel like this? Are you REALLY going to do this?”
You have to get used to the sensations, to trust your body and your fitness and allow yourself to push deep. That is what interval training is supposed to do for you. You get those first hard efforts out in training and get used to the sensations so that the first race you are not fighting against yourself. Without that training, I needed this race to work through those sensations. I left the day feeling ready for Sunday’s race and knowing I could now push much deeper as my body and mind knew I was “serious.”
Paul had a great race moving forward the whole day, attacking out of corners and riding a clean technical race. He was more than happy with the result. He got the answer he was looking for now knowing he was in great condition and that he could mix it up in with the top guys once he got a better start position and wouldn’t have to work all the way up from the back of the field.
Cross Blog 2012
The Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series
Cross Blog December 2012
November’s last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend and I chose not to race but to focus on training and preparing for the Holidays. This also allowed me to train and recover in preparation for the Pennsylvania State Championships scheduled for December 2nd. The State race was a focus of my season as I wanted to defend my State Champion Crown from 2011.
The State Championship Race was held just outside of Pittsburgh, PA on Sunday, December 2nd. I was well prepared with my equipment cleaned up, tuned up and in great shape. Physically I was feeling terrific. My training was on target and in the recent races as well as in training I was hitting my peak. Paul and I drove out to the race on Saturday afternoon and had a relaxing evening so I woke on Sunday feeling rested and ready.
We arrived at the race venue where it was dry and relatively warm. To my surprise the course was very flat. I expected a lot of hills since this part of the State is anything but flat. This was disappointing as the short “power” hills I expected are a strength for me. On warm-ups I felt great and my equipment was working smoothly. The race was going to be hard as we again had some of the best in the State all looking to take the Championship. A half hour before the race things suddenly changed; rain came in with cooler temperatures. It rained hard for a bit then slowed. I went out on the course just minutes before the start to check out the conditions. It was slippery, but my tires grabbed well through the turns and I had no problems so I decided not to change anything.
We lined up for the start and in came more rain. I had a fantastic start and immediately had a gap on the field. In one of the opening turns a rider went down beside me and I was able to open up another gap. Then I started to catch the field of 35+ racers who started a minute ahead of us and the traffic and slippery, slimy conditions created havoc. I was with the leader when I slid out in a slimy turn and discovered that my tires were clogged up with mud and thus had horrible traction. When I passed the pits I yelled to Paul to lower the pressure in the tires on my spare bike with the plan to make an exchange in another lap.
I continued on until a few minutes later I slid out again and knocked the rear brake cable off. I didn’t discover this until I was back up on the bike and past the pits so I decided to continue to ride using only the front brake. This was okay until I mysteriously slid out again for no apparent reason. I jumped back up but when I tried to pedal the front brake was rubbing the rim hard. I got off the bike to try to fix it but ended up releasing the front brake, re-attaching the rear brake and then continuing on. At this point I was far back in the field. By the time I arrived at the pit and switched to my spare bike it was clear I was completely out of contention. I raced on as best as I could to somehow finish 12th in the State.
My problems today were my own fault. I should have lowered the tire pressure when the rain started so I would have better grip. I could have also changed to a different set of wheels I own that have better “mud” tires but chose not to do this as the wheels are heavier overall and I wanted my lightest wheels so I could accelerate better. I did not put in my toe spikes on my shoes because it was dry and forgot to add them when the rain started. As a consequence, I was sliding all over each time I had to run or get off my bike. Then to make matters worse, it turned out that the reason I mysteriously slid out and found my front wheel locked up was because the drop out in the front fork on the right side slipped out partially and tilted the wheel out of position. This was a poor showing for me but I learned some lessons to make me a better racer.
The final race of the MAC series came on Sunday, December 9th in Macungie, PA at the Limestone Cross at the Kilns. I was holding 4th in the overall series and had hopes of a podium placing today. This course has the steep hills and power sections that fit my strengths plus I was feeling strong and healthy so things seemed promising. The weather had been wet so the course was muddy in places, plus rain was expected any minute to add to the challenge. My bikes were tuned up, the tire pressure was good and I was ready to go.
Off the start I jumped into the lead and was going well. After a lap I was just behind the leaders but with a couple of strong guys (Carl Reglar and Blair Saunders) so I was comfortable with my position. Then disaster struck, I mysteriously slid out again on a cement section landing on my right side. When I got on the bike I discovered my derailleur was smashed into my rear wheel. I had to carry the bike on my shoulder and run almost half a lap to the pits! I eventually put the bike down and bent the derailleur out so I could at least roll the bike but by the time I got to the pit for my spare bike I was tired and far back in the field. I did the best I could and moved up a few places but finished way back in 17th place. Not the result I was planning on! This poor result dropped me to 5th place in the series overall. Again, not the result I wanted!
As it turned out, my crash was the result of the fork drop out shifting again. I thought I had it fixed as I had it pushed back into position after the State Race and I could not get it to move again. Unfortunately, I was very wrong and the drop out moved and caused my crash. That fork is “toast” and needs replacing. I must say I am disappointed because I expect a fork or frame to last longer than three years (especially because of the care and maintenance I give them) but this Alpha QX fork just didn’t hold up.
I want to thank the SRAM neutral support crew for repairing my damaged rear derailleur (I “exploded” the lower jockey wheel in the crash) and replacing the derailleur hanger. The mechanic (sorry I don’t recall his name) was fantastic and had the bike ready to go within one lap. I have raced SRAM components for 5 years now and they have held up to the battering of cyclocross racing and are exceptionally dependable and resilient. I highly recommend SRAM’s components and equipment. Check them out at www.SRAM.com. For reference, I am not sponsored or paid by SRAM. I purchase all my equipment and choose their components because of the quality and value.
With the challenges and frustrations of these last two races, and the failure of the ALPHA QX fork on my race bike I decided to end my season and not go onto Nationals. I probably could have got a replacement for the fork in time for Nationals but it just felt like I was getting the signal to finish my season now.
Thank you for following my racing this year.
Thank you to the team sponsors, my many fellow racers, and the race promoters of the Pennsylvania series (www.pacx.pacycling.org) and the Mid Atlantic series.
2012 Team Sponsors of MamboCX/GoCycling/DrWahner.com:
Cross Blog November 2012
Racing in November always brings change. The weather becomes colder and often wetter. The racers begin to separate into two “camps”: The guys who focus on cross racing are reaching their peak in fitness. The guys who focus on road racing or mountain bike racing are fizzling out and stopping. This means the fields are smaller, but highly competitive at the front of the race. This November was no different.
There were 4 races in the Pennsylvania series starting off with Stoudt’s Cross on the 4th. A pretty big field of riders showed up for a cold, windy and muddy day of riding. The Stoudt’s race was “weird” in that half the course was very flat with huge lengths of pavement. The other half was a muddy hillside that forced us to run and slog through the grass. I had a strong start and at the top of the hill I ran into the lead. I held the second position in the lead group finishing up the opening lap when I skipped my rear wheel on gravel in a turn and dropped down hard on the nose of my saddle causing it to tilt down at a 45 degree angle. I lost the leaders at this point and was never to see them again. I was able to switch to my spare bike a lap later which made a big difference but I was frustrated and lost my motivation along with a bunch of places to end up 7th. This was an unfortunate turn of events for me as my fitness was great but went wasted due partly to my mechanical but mostly due to my poor attitude.
The next weekend (November 10th) brought the 7th race in the MAC series – First State Velo Cross – in Fairhill, MD on Saturday. I felt strong today and ready to race. I liked the course and on warm-ups was really feeling good but then I had my first mishap: I rolled my front tire off the rim in an off camber turn. Unfortunate but no real issue since it was just warm-ups. Just after the race start I had another issue with my saddle but was able to stay up near the leaders and change to my spare bike, then disaster struck: Not 200 meters later I rolled my rear tire off the rim and crashed. I was able to push the tire back on and continue, but I lost the leaders and many others. I rode a full lap but had to go easy since the tire was loose and changed back to my main bike which was now fixed. Then my racing began. I was able to fight back up from around 20th position to 11th but ran out of time. Again, I had great fitness but a subpar result.
Sunday (November 11th) brought a PA series race at Crossasaurous Awesome in Spring Mountain, PA. Strange name but a good race. I started the day feeling frustrated and unmotivated. An awkward crash in warm-ups further flustered me and almost made me call it a day. I decided to stick it out and just see how things went. The race start went well and a half lap in I was in a good group but 15 seconds off the two leaders. I attacked and moved up to get within a few meters of the leaders when I slid out on a turn losing momentum and dropping back a few places. I again fought back but could not close on the two leaders and one chaser. I found myself with two tough guys in Mark Featherman and Kelly Cline. The three of us battled it out for several laps until Mark dropped back with a mechanical. Kelly and I sprinted it out for the finish and I was just able to hold him off to take 4th place. This turned out to be a good race where I felt strong and fit. It is fortunate I stuck it out and raced!
The next weekend (November 17th and 18th) the Pennsylvania cyclocross series continued in Kutztown at Renninger’s market. The race course used the outdoor flea market area and wound around a couple of the pavilions. The area was relatively flat and without a lot of natural features, but on the first day the promoters did their best to make the course challenging by having two sets of barriers, lots of turns and a spiral. We had a good field in the master’s race including all the top guys.
The start was fast and it was clear everyone was ready to race hard. Within the first half lap my teammate, Jeff Appeltans and BikeLine athlete Bob Reuther got a gap on me, another BikeLine athlete Marty Mrugal and Revolution Wheels athlete Kelly Cline. I went in pursuit of Jeff and Bob with Marty and Kelly coming along. Then Jeff got away from Bob and Marty and I closed the gap on Bob (but lost Kelly along the way).
At this point it was the two BikeLine teammates, Bob and Marty, racing against me for second place. We each had some time leading the others, trying to break each other down. I didn’t want to let them have much opportunity to use team tactics to drop me so I stayed on the front a lot and kept attacking hard. I couldn’t get away from them and we were all together in the final ¼ mile when Bob opened up his sprint out of the last turn. I jumped on his wheel and blasted past, sprinting into a second place finish behind Jeff. This was my best finish for the season. I felt terrific, strong and rode well all day.
On Sunday (November 18th) we returned to Renninger’s market in Kutztown using the same area for the race course but with some changes. We raced the opposite direction and the promoters took out the spiral and made a few other alterations to try to give the course more of a “flow”. Jeff Appeltans did not return to race today but everybody else was back, plus a couple more top racers who were not here on Saturday. It was going to be a tough race but after yesterday’s race I was excited for the day. Everything started off well and I was with the lead group until half a lap in I slid out on a slick root in a 180 degree turn. I lost a bunch of places but went in pursuit of the leaders. I felt powerful today and was able to accelerate hard out of every turn and just after completing the first lap I came up to the leading group.
Here is where I made a big mistake; I felt so confident and powerful I decided to just accelerate past the leaders instead of hooking onto their group. I took a turn way to fast, crashed off course and dropped my chain. I had to manually put the chain on and by the time I was riding again I lost a bunch of places with the leaders moving away. I still felt great so I just went for it, riding hard and moving back up.
After a couple of laps I was moving up and thought I could catch the guy in 5th. I rode aggressively through a turn and felt my rear tire slide awkwardly then start to rub (I rolled another tire off the rim!). I wasn’t far from the pit so I just pedaled through the rubbing and exchanged bikes for the final lap. My race at that point was done. I finished the race in 7th. My mistakes today and rolled tire cost me a podium placing but my fitness was terrifi,c so although things did not turn out well I was confident in my training. (I want to mention that Kelly Cline took the win today. He rode a terrific race!)
Cyclocross in the Philadelphia region had been dominated by the MAC series for years, any other series in the area was a distant second in field size and quality of competition. This year is different, the MAC series reduced in size from 14 races to 8 and the Pennsylvania Series has stepped up its game over the past couple years. As a result the PACX Series has been “hot” this season. The field sizes have jumped up to rival the MAC series as the racers are turning out looking to fill out the season. All the top guys are coming too, so the races are just as tough at the front as they are in the MAC. This is especially true in the Masters divisions.
Thus far we had two races in the PACX: Town Hall Cross in Bethlehem, and West Chester Cross in (where else) West Chester. Both were well organized and very tough events. In my Masters 45+ races the competition was fierce. In both events I had outstanding starts and was in the lead to begin. I fought hard at Town Hall but had a mishap where I dropped my chain early on and lost the lead group. I was able to fight back up to finish eighth overall. I was disappointed in the final position, but not in the effort I was able to give to get it.
At West Chester I had a great start again and stayed with the leaders as the field began to splinter. Two guys got a gap (my teammate Jeff Appeltans and Bob Reuther) and both are strong racers so I jumped around the guy in third and went in pursuit. I had several guys closely trailing me but was able to drop them and bridge up to the Jeff and Bob. Just after I caught them, Jeff attacked and I couldn’t respond and was left on my own again. I kept pushing but to no avail. Still it was a terrific day; I rode a mistake free race, had great bike handling skills and finished third with my teammate Jeff taking the WIN!
I am looking forward to more of the PACX series! It is great to have such quality racing so close to home where family and fans can come out to enjoy the day. If you are interested in seeing a race, check out the websites for information on upcoming events. Most races have music, food and beer to complement the competition.
The MAC Series 2012
While October is coming to a close, Cyclocross racing is going strong. We started racing the MAC Series (www.MidAtlanticCross.com) on the second weekend of September with the highly competitive Nittany Cross weekend followed up immediately the following weekends with Charm City Cross in Baltimore and then WhirlyBird Cross in Bensalem. The last weekend in October we raced the 6th race in the series with Highland Park Cross in New Jersey.
This year’s MAC Series is very competitive and fun. We are seeing terrific racing in all the classes. To be successful you have to be at the top of your fitness. I am racing in the Masters 45+ category again this year. Anybody thinking that the racing gets slower or easier as you move up to the higher age group categories would see they are mistaken. These guys are FAST and SMART! In fact the major difference noted by athletes who have raced in the “Open” age group categories and in the Masters categories is that the Masters are terrific tacticians and flawless bike handlers. The younger guys have all kinds of power but will lose to the more experienced athlete who knows how to race efficiently.
In the 45+ Masters we are seeing outstanding performances from Troy Kimball, Mark Pohndorf and Jeff Appeltans. In every race these three have been in the lead at some point and are always fighting for the podium. Around them are many other strong riders including Eric Schlauch, Bob Reuther, Marty Mrugal, Ron Huebner, Mark Featherman and Chris Long. I count myself among this strong group who is fighting to find the podium. This group is being closely chased by Ray Zeimet, Joe Piscitello, Kelly Cline and Dave Lowe who are all very strong riders finding their way into the top ten.
My racing in the MAC this year has been strong and fairly consistent. I came into the season with good fitness but no racing in my legs with the plan to gain race fitness and move toward the front of the races as the season progresses. One of my strengths this year is the race starts; I am able to jump out at the start and be in the lead or near the front of the race in the opening lap. My bike handling is also a strength as I have gained much confidence in my skills. As the season progresses my strength and race fitness has definitely improved although some of my results in the MAC are not yet stellar. The difference I see is that I am now comfortable racing toward the front, and I feel strong enough to cross gaps to guys ahead of me. I am close to getting that podium result, I need just a little luck, a bit more fitness and some tenacity. The next MAC race comes in two weeks in FairHill, MD in which I hope to achieve that podium result.
A New Team for 2012
A new Cyclocross season brings a new team for me. Since I began racing my bicycle in Cyclocross eight years ago, I always raced under my own team (www.DrWahner.com) with my brother Paul. We had a lot of fun, some great races and a distinctive race uniform we loved. This season Paul decided he was not going to race. At the same time a friend and fellow racer, Jeff Appeltans, was starting a team (www.GoCycling.com) and invited me to join. Jeff is a tough competitor and great person so I jumped at the opportunity to join up with him and make a winning team.
The new team meant a new race kit. This meant I abandoned our “spine” down the back of the jersey and the “W” on the front that made our jersey stand out, and helped people identify me in the races. Fellow racers said they didn’t recognize me in the new kit and didn’t realize who I was during the first few races. More disappointing to me was race fans did not know who I was anymore and no longer cheered for me. When you are suffering and pushing hard in a race it helps so much to have people cheer you and encourage you. Without my old uniform people just don’t know who I am. I hope over time they start to learn my new uniform (after all it is a great looking kit!).
I want to thank our new team’s sponsors for believing in us and supporting our efforts:
Click here to read Cross Blog 2011